Protecting our children & families from leftover medicine

10 Dec
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Young children are especially at risk for accidental poisoning from medicines left in the home.  Thirty-two percent of child poisoning deaths were caused by someone else’s prescription medication and 26 percent were caused by over-the-counter medications.


Accidental poisoning is not the only risk posed by leftover medicines; prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the country. The rates of prescription drug abuse are especially high among teens. In fact, medicine cabinets have become the new “drug dealer” — three out of five teens say prescription pain relievers are easy to get from parents’ medicine cabinets.


So, why not simply toss leftover medicines into the trash or flush them down the toilet? After all, it seems like an easy solution – right? Wrong. Throwing unwanted medicines in the trash or flushing them simply passes them into our waterways and environment. Here in the Pacific Northwest, researchers have found drugs like painkillers, antihistamines, antibiotics, heart medications, and hormones in our environment, potentially impacting our surface, ground and marine waters, in addition to the soils and sediments. Nationally, a wide range of medicines have been found in the drinking water of 24 major metropolitan cities.


It’s time to think of leftover medicine as toxic waste from the home. You don’t put motor oil or batteries in the trash, much less the toilet. And in this case, we are talking about 33 million containers of medicines per year, in our state alone that need to be disposed of in a way that protects our families and the environment! We need to keep these waste medicines out of our drinking water supplies and protect our food chain – especially for our kids.

What is desperately needed is a statewide program with convenient locations where people return their unwanted medicines for disposal in a safe and secure manner. Today, high temperature incineration is the best and safest method for disposing of this type of toxic waste.

The growing volume of leftover medicines is rapidly becoming a very serious issue both in and outside the home. In many Washington counties, communities and taxpayers have stepped up to provide temporary take-back programs. But funding is limited and these programs are only a band-aid measure at best. It’s time we address this issue head on and ask the drug manufacturers who make and profit from these products to help dispose of them. They have the resources, the expertise and the responsibility.

Currently, the pharmaceutical industry runs an average of 80 television commercials an hour in the U.S. Last year in Washington state alone, drug companies spent $487 million on adverting and generated over $4 billion in sales. The latest estimate puts the cost of a medicine take-back program at about one penny per container of medicine. Is it so much to ask that an industry that makes billions pay so little to help protect so many? The cost of doing nothing is enormous – drug addiction, poisonings and pollution.   Just across the border in British Columbia drug manufactures already support and pay for exactly this type of program – why should Washington be any less safe?

To find out what you can do to protect your community, view statistics and get involved visit: and join them on Facebook at TakeBackYourMeds. If you are located outside Washington State you may go online to, an online resource to help you to find medication disposal programs at the local independent community pharmacy near you.


One Response to “Protecting our children & families from leftover medicine”


  1. Tweets that mention Protecting our children & families from leftover medicine « Soccer Mom in Giggle Town -- - December 10, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by BARBARA Jones, Cup of Joe w/ Jeanie. Cup of Joe w/ Jeanie said: Written just for you Protecting our children & families from leftover medicine […]

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